It’s usually first impressions that count the most … be it a first date or a business meeting. When we are out to impress we want to be able to look the other person in the eye, offer a smile of welcome and then extend our hand in a firm confident gesture of greeting.
For most of us this is a natural and easy way to behave; but for an unfortunate few something as straightforward as a hand shake is a nightmare scenario.
Everyone has sweat glands in the palms of their hands so while it might be “normal” to suffer from clammy palms at times – especially when we feel anxious – for some people the condition is so severe that it causes sweat to literally drip from the hands making it highly embarrassing to touch another person and leaving them no choice but to head to the bathroom to wash their hands every few minutes.
Palmar hyperhidrosis (as this is called) not only plays havoc with social and business life, but it can also interfere with every day tasks such as writing or holding items. Taking part in most sports also becomes impossible.
Fortunately help is now at hand for those who find that this problem is severely affecting the quality of their lives. For this – and its sister condition of excess sweating from the soles of the feet (or planta hyperhidrosis) – can now be cured with the use of “anti-wrinkle” injections which work on the sweat glands in the palms to inhibit excessive sweating.
Clinica London medical specialist Jane Olver explains: “Palmar hyperhidrosis causes a lot of misery for sufferers and the patients we see are highly motivated to have it treated. In the case of planta hyperhidrosis the unhealthy, damp, sweaty environment leaves the feet vulnerable to additional health problems such as fungal infections.”
It should be pointed out that there are two different types of sweat gland – apocrine and eccrine. The former are primarily situated where we have hair follicles – armpits, scalp and groin for instance. They produce a “thick” sweat packed with fatty acids and proteins; while the eccrine glands, found most densely on the hands and feet, produce sweat consisting of mostly salt, electrolytes and water – this type of sweat is used to cool the body down.
Although emotional stress is often blamed for the condition (as opposed to physical stress or hot temperatures), it is in fact an overactive nervous system – specifically a malfunctioning ‘sympathetic nervous system’ – which is responsible. The sympathetic nervous system controls many automatic bodily functions such as pupil dilation, fight or flight response, blushing; as well as also regulating body temperature and the nerves that stimulate the glands to produce sweat.
It is these glands which are directly targeted and then paralysed with injections.
“It is an extremely slow and time consuming procedure which requires 40 injections on each palm. That said, the patients are highly motivated to have it done and we take every precaution to minimise the pain and discomfort.
“We also use ice as well as anti-pain cream. A grid-like plan is then drawn onto the hands (or feet) up to each finger tip marking the sweat glands to be targeted”, Jane explained.
Typically patients enjoy having dry palms – or non-sweaty socks in their shoes – within a week. The treatment lasts for up to 12 months.